When my Beloved and I returned to northwest Arkansas in 1977, I recall the proliferation of apple (and peach) orchards throughout the region. Since about the early 1800s when farmers first began cultivating apples in the state, orchards multiplied. With its favorable climate (situated on a plateau), the northwest corner of the state became the dominant region for apple production.
By some estimates in the early 1900s, over 4 million apple trees were growing in the state’s two northwest counties (Benton and Washington), more than any other two counties in the US. The acreage in Benton County alone was estimated to be around 40,000 acres in 1900. In 1901, the apple-blossom was adopted as the official state flower.
Over the years, both apple and peach orchards have decreased in number. Fungal diseases and insect infestations often damaged or decimated the yearly harvests. After repeated weather events during the late 1970s and early 1980s, some of the apple growers in our area had simply been battered too hard to survive. In addition, I think (my personal conjecture) they were able to make better money selling the orchard properties to developers. All the growth in the area called for additional housing and rural farms were converted to subdivisions.
This weekend, the small town of Lincoln, AR celebrated their annual Apple Festival with a variety of events and a celebration of their once-important agricultural crop, apples. While it’s still known as an Apple Festival, the arts and crafts aspect of the celebration now has a more prominent role in bringing tourists (and their dollars) to the small town.
When my children were young, we’d make a trek to the orchards and bring home a bushel or two of apples. (Peaches, too, but they were harvested at another time.) Our usual practice was to make a couple pies and then a huge pot of applesauce that would be poured into quart Mason jars to enjoy over the winter months ahead of us. Homemade applesauce (apples slowly simmered down to mush, lightly sweetened and with a touch of cinnamon) is such a better product than the runny store-bought stuff!
I love apples. My older daughter eats one (sometimes more than one) Golden Delicious apple a day. I find them to be a bit grainy for my tastes. At one time, I preferred the striking tartness of Granny Smith apples. Then my younger son encouraged me to try the Pink Lady variety. Within a brief time, I was converted!
The whimsical poem below is written to celebrate apples (in general) but especially the variety I currently enjoy most. Dictionary.com defines pippin as but given that I’m no expert in any kind of agricultural endeavor, I knew there was the possibility an apple expert might determine the Pink Lady is incorrectly categorized as an actual pippin … some other cultivar or whatever? If so, I cede that point, but will use the term in the poem nonetheless.